Chocolate - (Import DVD)
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Sean, DURBAN. 30 November 2009
The main character is played by Jeeja Yanin aka Yanin Vismitananda whom I’d like to say is a name to watch out for had it not been such a mouthful. She is only 24 years old but I can assure you her focus is masterful. For this film she combined Taekwon-do, Thai-boxing, sword play and gymnastics but in the end she managed to create a style kind of unique to her own build. The fight choreography is very well planned out and the execution leaves you breathless mostly.
The story and character building takes a back seat as expected but it’s still a step up from films like Ong-Bak and Warrior King. To quote IMDB: “An autistic woman with powerful martial art skills looks to settle her ailing mother's debts by seeking out the ruthless gangs that owe her family money.” So yeah that’s basically what it boils down to but this time at least they seem to have spent some time getting more suitable actors into the main roles. The main villain with his 70’s style pimp suit who’d shoot himself in the foot to get his point across more clearly was certainly a twist to the whole genre of torturing someone to get your point across. The father of ‘Zen’ had me rooting for him towards the end where it could have easily led to a complete breakdown of build-up. The ailing mother was convincing and I started to feel the desperation in Zen’s journey which made the build up to the action scenes so much more rewarding. Also on a positive note, the music in the film was excellent as well. There is a different tune for every fight which complemented the situation at hand. Very nice touch!
So speaking of those action scenes, you’re in for quite a ride. The first 30 minutes is spent emphasising the circumstances and Zen’s ‘special’ abilities but once that is all done she starts to gradually dispose of any scum that stands in her way with more and more complex moves. The key to this film is not that it drowns the viewer in one long fight at the same bloody location for 15-30 minutes. In fact the action set-pieces and fights are over very quickly. The pace is frenetic once it actually starts but the locations change with each fight. From an ice factory, meat factory, a penthouse leading to an incredible roof fight that only gets better towards the main set piece, a fight on a four story building with scaffolding, incredibly staged and with no stunt doubles (at times you can actually see the same guy who just got beaten down take the role of another henchman but it hardly distracts because you’re too busy focusing on what she’ll do next), it’s clear why so many people got hurt during filming. Zen also bumps heads with another “autistic” character that has his own kind of ‘monkey-style’ with enhanced reflexes, it’s a short fight but once again, amazing. Put two sticks in her hand and once again it’s short but so effective and a rush to watch.
This is a martial arts film for fans and people that prefer more mainstream stuff should stay away. Once again the fact that the film is in Thai and they’re staple mark tradition to become kind of annoying in dramatic or emotional situations will put you off and even infuse a chuckle or two but this is just the way they do things around there to get an emotional reaction out of their audiences I assume. But it should really not put you off from what this film set out to be which is to entertain an audience with people who are incredibly skilled in martial arts and the best director out there at the moment to infuse some new life into the genre. It’s a kick @ss ride and ranks up there in my top three modern day martial arts films.
On a side note, I found the marketing and release of the film so spot on. It was released on Valentines day and what more could a guy ask for than having your love interest invite you to a martial arts movie where not only it’s one of the best of it’s kind out there, but it’s a martial arts movie where you have your other half rooting for the hero all the way. Seriously check this movie out!
I sincerely hope I don't have to wait another 4 years for something like this BUT I'd rather wait this long than have Hollywood completely destroy it i.e. 'The Protector' or funding these guys into mainstream and studio involvement and all that sh*t.